Even though the Trump administration has rolled back regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and recently changed government requirements to report on climate science, a group of Hailey citizens is taking a local stand to fight global warming.

    “We all know about climate change because we hear about it so much. It’s better for people who care about it to have something to actually do about it,” said Scott Runkel, a founding member of the Hailey Climate Action Coalition.

    The coalition was recently established to begin working on local solutions to the climate change crisis. The vast majority of scientists working on climate change have said it is caused by human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels.

    Runkel is a Community School environmental science teacher. He said global warming is having local consequences. He said average winter low temperatures are rising, the snow season has shortened and the number of summer nights with temperatures over 50 degrees has increased.

     Runkel said that information was used in his recent presentation at the Hailey Public Library, based on data supplied by a meteorologist at the National Weather Service who visited the Wood River Valley two years ago.  

    Runkel said climate change could bring up regular concerns about the viability of skiing, trout fishing, which relies on cold stream temperatures, and the occurrence of wildfires.

    “Scientists deal in probabilities, but when the probabilities are this high, it seems wrong to not do something about it,” he said.

     Eight people showed up for the first meeting of the coalition in May. A second meeting at The Nature Conservancy office in Hailey last week increased the group’s unofficial membership to about 30.

    “We’re going to start small but hope to grow to include people from other cities in the valley,” Runkel said.

    The coalition’s members have spilt into three committees to work on government-, business- and community-related projects. Each group will decide on one goal to begin their efforts, plan and strategize a campaign, then begin taking action to achieve their goal.

    One of the coalition’s plans is to lobby the elected leaders of Hailey to restore a paid city staff position dedicated to environmental concerns.

    For three years, Hailey had a grant-funded sustainability director position held by Mariel Platt, who implemented a series of programs geared toward reducing man-made carbon emissions.  Due in part to the city’s stance toward climate protection, Hailey received a $472,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 to create numerous projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and saving energy.

    The valleywide Climate Challenge implemented by Platt included programs to increase home energy efficiency, recycle construction waste, upgrade lighting fixtures and promote green living practices, through workshops and a $47,000 documentary film project. Miller also implemented a bike-share program in Hailey before her position funding ended about four years ago.

    Runkel said another sustainability coordinator, who works with all city departments, could implement ideas brainstormed by the Hailey Climate Action Coalition.

    To contact the group, send an email to makeitgreen@me.com.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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